Monday, March 1, 2010

March 1, 2010 - revisiting the World Outgames - still a bitter taste

i was recently approached by a student in Denmark who was doing a project on the Outgames 'experience' of the athletes, and i was all too happy to share my story.. heck, I'm going to share it right here, right now!

Hi (student's name not shared on my blog for privacy reasons),

I'd be happy to share a few thoughts about my experiences in Copenhagen this past summer.

the anticipation leading up to the Outgames was huge for me, as i was the one who suggested the policy to create a 3rd sex category for transsexuals athletes who were in the midst of their transition and who did not desire or felt comfortable competing in either male or female category. the Outgames accepted my idea and announced their decision via this new release on their website...

the thought of becoming the first formally-sanctioned transsexual marathon runner & swimmer in world history excited me, not necessarily because i wanted or needed the personal accolades, but because i knew that this would be a great chance to further spread education and awareness about a topic that is often misunderstood and not spoken about.

the hype at home here in Canada was great as i was featured on television, and in a major local newspaper, and was invited to speak at the opening ceremony of my city's PRIDE week.

as i ran the marathon, before, during, and after the run, many other athletes approached me and wanted to speak with me. many knew who i was and recognized the importance and significance of me being there.

my marathon run was actually not that good, but all that really mattered was that i finish the race, which i did. the very next day, i was in the pool swimming the 1500M, my first ever swimming event! and even on sore legs, i swam the fastest 1500M in my entire life. while at the pool, i also had a chance to meet with and speak with so many great athletes from all over the world.

sadly, what should have been a great success, ended up in a disaster. although they had created this new category, other than that initial news release, the Outgames did practically no communication about the new category. there was no mention of it in the official program, and there was no mention of it at any of the major events. not the opening ceremony or the opening reception.

folks at the swimming pool had no idea that it even existed, and they initially erroneously assigned me one of the other two category and actually awarded me a medal for the wrong category!

to make things even worse, the medal ceremonies for both the swim and marathon runs were canceled, so there was no opportunity for me to be publicly recognized for this important milestone.

and the fact that i was initially assigned to the wrong category was a complete slap in the face, as i had traveled half way around the world specifically to not be assigned to a category that i did not feel was right for me.

in the end, it was as if the Outgames wanted to pretend as if they never really invented this 3rd category in the first place.

i later found out there there were 12 other athletes who had signed up for various sports in the transsexual category, but i didn't get to meet any of them and there was no way of finding out who they were.

ultimately, i left Copenhagen feeling extremely disappointed, used, and taken advantage of. i felt completely ripped off as i did not get what i wanted out of the experience, that being: a chance to spread education and awareness about transsexualism.

although i was handed a gold medal at the marathon registration table, and although i was sent a swimming gold medal in the mail, this was not about winning medals. it was about telling a story, and this didn't happen.

with all the controversy surrounding the Caster Semenya issue, this was a chance to show the world that there is a way to be inclusive in sports, but it is a story that very few people got to hear.

i honestly do not expect to take part in the world Outgames ever again, as it appears clear to me that they really aren't all that accepting of transpeople. tolerant, yes; but accepting, no.

as far as the Gay Games in Cologne, i am not planning to attend these either. having reviewed their gender identity policy, i contacted them and raised some concerns, and they have not been very communicative with me in response.

given what happened to me, and what happened to Caster Semenya, and given the recent statements by the IOC that stemmed from their 'gender summit' in Miami in January, it appears that the sporting world still has a long way to go in terms of accepting and embracing transsexuals into their environment. i realize that transsexuals and other 3rd gendered athletes bring new complexities into an environment that has traditionally been binary; and it is sad to see just how scared they are of change. even an LGB-friendly environment seems unprepared and unwilling to change at all to accommodate and embrace all of us.

anyway, I'm sorry to have to tell such a negative story about my World Outgames experience, and believe me, it wasn't all bad, as i still brought home many great memories and experiences, but if i had to summarize my trip in a short e-mail, this issue trumps them all.

If you would like any additional information, I'd certainly be open to discussing further,

all the best with your project,
Jennifer McCreath

No comments: